Wyllie and his brothers grew up in a house teetering on the beach at Wimereaux, to the north of Boulogne. Le Portel, the fishing village where this was painted, lies close to the south, in the Pas de Calais. Wyllie had scored a precocious success with his Dawn after the Storm in the British Royal Academy in 1869, winning the coveted Turner Gold Medal for landscape at the amazingly young age of 18, but in 1875 two of his pictures were refused by the RA and, disillusioned, Wyllie declared that the would give up painting and go to sea. Though by now the house at Wimereaux had fallen into the sea in a storm, Wyllie spent most of his time sailing and sketching about the coast there. He worked on on paper out of doors, with the sensitivity and panache of Boudin, but allied to system - as a sailor, Wyllie was vividly aware of the state of the tide, the time, the direction of the wind and the weather. A very similar oil sketch, also on paper and painted at the same time, is in the South London Art Gallery, and there are closely related watercolours in the National Maritime Museum of about the same size.